Sunday, 9 March 2014

Miracles...

Almost six months ago I finished this post with the words "Waiting for a miracle... "

Well guess what! Nothing that could be strictly defined as miraculous happened...

... but other things did. Things that seemed like miracles because of their unexpected and apparently unlikely nature. Everyday miracles, perhaps.

The first thing was that I was facing a ludicrous shortfall between my rent and how much Housing Benefit I'm entitled to. This left me with about £26 a week to live on (inlcuding the 20% council tax I must pay which is around £3 a week). Obviously this was an untenable situation. Well... after speaking with my landlord, he put the rent down! (Miraculous!) There was still a shortfall, but £28 a week instead of £45. (Seems less miraculous now...)

Shortly after this, I found out that my Discretionary Housing Payment application had been successful. This meant no Housing Benefit shortfall at all, for the time being. I also passed my ESA (sickness benefit) assessment, which means even when the DHP runs out, I will still be able to scrape together enough to pay my rent. I passed the assessment without having a face-to-face interview, based on the information they'd sought from my GP. Anyone who's been subject to the ESA assessment process, designed to deny people the benefit, and outsourced to known disability deniers Atos Healthcare, will understand why this is miraculous – both seeking information from my GP and actually taking any notice of it!

And then... there was one more thing.

But first, a thought... The above events were, to me, little miracles that made my life easier at the point where it really mattered. By that, I mean I didn't know how to go on in the circumstances I found myself in. Having access to financial support when I really needed it, being able to keep a stable home, having the time to get better and return to work at a mangeable pace meant I could carry on. It meant there was a way forward, instead of a downward spiral. And it was an everyday miracle, an ordinary miracle, if you like, that made all the difference. The wonderful thing about this kind of 'miracle' is that we can make them happen.

It could be you who needs a miracle one day.

* * *

... And finally...

... I met someone. We shall call him 'Mr. Blokey'. Yes, a man! But hold the fanfare a moment, because we split up over a month ago. However... I am including Mr. Blokey on the general tally of miracles for two reasons.

The first is that he appeared as if from nowhere. I wasn't looking for a relationship; I'd suspended that whole area of my life until further notice. If you'd asked me if there was anyone on the horizon I'd have said no – I wasn't even thinking about it. At the same time I'd been seeing Mr Blokey around socially a lot more (having originally met him a couple of years previously) and always really enjoyed his company and loved seeing him... And then I'd go home and forget all about him until next time. The nice thing about this was that there was no build-up to the relationship in my head, no flirting or anything contrived... just me being me and someone liking that enough to suggest spending more time together. He also knew about my mentalness (from the grapevine, oh joy) and it didn't deter him; he just wanted to understand. He also doesn't view me as 'mental' and if I refer to myself as such, actually reminds me I'm just a person with experiences.

He too, is a person with experiences and sadly, what we shall call a collision of 'issues' means after a mainly lovely four months it ended....

... Leading to miraculous point number two... We are still friends. This might not seem a big deal to a lot of people, but it is to me. It means we have actually talked about why we split up, so it's not just horrible and frightening but something to learn from. Also, he talks to me about stuff. It seems Mr. Blokey is having a sort of life epiphany, in various ways, and this is lovely to see. And it is lovely to still be in each other's lives. I blatently haven't 'got over' him, but then it seems he feels the same way, from things he's said. Not that either of us want to get back together (oh ok, I do in future... some dim distant future!) but it's nice being around him and being me on my terms, knowing what would need to be different for it to ever work between us.

Not that it will.

Lather, rinse repeat..!

Hmm. Miracles...

Friday, 7 March 2014

Random connections and a brief synopsis...


A couple of days ago, I spent a huge amount of time reading this blog, specifically the mental health related posts from back in 2007-8. I'd been thinking about my experiences with mental health services, and surrounding events. Not intentionally thinking about these things, but lots of obscure memories and feelings were popping up and I seemed to be joining the dots and making sense of them. I was experiencing a lot of derealisation which wasn't exactly pleasant itself, but accompanied by a beautiful clarity that was alternately despairing and exhilarating.
Now that all sounds a bit airy-fairy and self indulgent, I know, and no doubt a psychiatrist somewhere would see it as the first signs of mania and want to prescribe me some heavy-duty meds. Or perhaps a mental health nurse could write some notes about me detailing how I refuse to accept I'm a terrible person who would be ok if I could just stop being such a damned pain in the arse, or you know, having feelings and that...
Conform! And please don't point out the discrepancies in this bizarre human society, the cognitive dissonance, the disjointed edges of our reality; do not peer through the cracks because therein lies MADNESS!!
RAAARRRRGHHHHH!!!

Moving swifly on..!
CalumCarr noticed that one visitor had spent all this time reading his posts on mental health (cue moment of paranoid embarassment that someone out there had witnessed my obsessive blog reading) and was reminded why he has kept the blog. In return, his post on the matter reminded me that I would like to blog here far more often, and why...

I ended up posting a comment that turned out to be very long, and as it summed up so many things, I thought I'd post it here too:

***
I found your blog because I was looking for others who had been through the same with the NHS mental health services as myself, for validation I suppose.

I was still in my teens when I went to the GP for what I believed to be depression (still do actually, psych diagnoses are simply a label on a cluster of behaviours that commonly arise together...) Long story short [ok, so it turned out not to be so short...], someone somewhere decided to label me with BPD [Borderline Personality Disorder]. I didn't have a formal assessment, just aquired the label somehow. I think it was the GP due to some of the outrageous things he said to me ("You're just one of those people" etc.) and the fact that I never got offered any treatment from the word go. [This was pre- 2007 when the NHS still turned people away for having this diagnosis.]

As things worsened, I was regularly being taken to the hospital under section by the police, usually offered no assessment, and always sent away as a waste of time. If I tried to stand up for myself they gleefully used it as 'evidence' of BPD, being disagreeable. I made a complaint and the extracts from my notes, the lies and manipulation they used, showed me it was a losing battle. To this day I daren't read my NHS records because it would break me.

I was also in an abusive relationship at the time, and living under threat of violence due to a separate situation (I reiterate: I was 19 at the time!). Because of the BPD label I was refused housing assistance from the council. The MH services colluded with my abusive (older) boyfriend and if I was ever upset at how he treated me I was accused of 'splitting'. He was offered sympathy and supportive phonelines.

The worst thing is, I have ended up with a criminal record (and loads more charges that were dropped/public order offences) due to standing up for myself (eg. refusing to leave until I'd got help) and due to being angry (non-violently) about the situations I was trapped in. I always wanted to be a nurse, and a few years ago should have begun training. However the place was withdrawn at the last minute once they'd seen my criminal and NHS records. The people who did this to me are probably still out there inflicting their cruelty on patients, but I am deemed too risky. All the caring careers are closed to me now, despite feeling I was placed on this earth to help people.

There were too many arrests to count, terrible things that happened but the police would do nothing, calling me a 'drama queen', I was terrified and alone so many times. I've been homeless and kicked out of the hostel for not being 'priority' as BPD wasn't seen as mentally ill. I've been restrained so many times that when it hurts badly in a warped way I want to be arrested because that's the only human touch I had in pain back then.

I was eventually given some therapy several years later - and properly assessed, so they had to remove the BPD diagnosis but the stigma remained. The therapist was lovely but there were constant issues coming up to do with stuff written about me that she was working from - rather than focussing on how I felt, it was all about 'changing behaviours' that actually only existed around the mental health team!!

I thought I'd escaped it all when I had another breakdown, probably because I was finally 'safe'. Then the nightmares and flashbacks started. It's been 3.5 years of chasing treatment now. I'm lucky enough to have been offered funds for private therapy (from family member) and I know this is what I have to do; no-one in the NHS can help because they will not be allowed to criticise the system.

It's almost 10 years since it all began. Whatever the original issues were, the stuff that affects me now is to do with what happened when I tried to get help, and the surrounding circumstances. I precisely fit the diagnosis of 'complex PTSD' - as yet not an official diagnosis.

I have NEVER fulfilled enough diagnostic criteria to be diagnosed BPD. But the layers upon layers of lies and misrepresentation have forever condemned me.
Not that it should matter, even if I DID have it.

***

So there we go. I hate to criticize the NHS; on physical health matters they have been excellent for myself and others I know, and the principle of a healthcare system free at the point of use is one I strongly defend. But really, the issues I've had with them relating to mental health aren't really to do with the NHS at all, rather a lack of funding (if properly funded, the money would be recouped from other areas eg. policing) and the way in which mental ill-health and human behavoir in general is viewed by society.

I used to think that the antipsychiatry brigade were aligning themselves with the tinfoil hat people in their views on social and political control; mainly because I've never been admitted to hospital under section or suffered barbaric 'treatment' like forced injections or ECT. And yet... I'm coming at it from the opposite experience, of being refused any treatment at all, labelled, judged and condemned... and have come to realise it's the same social and political principles in action.